Sunday, September 2, 2012
Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-8 James 1:17-18, 21b-22, 27 Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
This long weekend we celebrate a holiday unique to the United States-one that is quite new: Labor Day began in 1882 in New York City when a carpenter (Peter Maguire) suggested it as a day to honor those who “have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold.”
While it is debated whether or not he is the official founder of Labor Day, Maguire was certainly on to something in honoring the dignity of workers (and as some Christian homilists have noted, perhaps it’s no coincidence that he was a carpenter like the Carpenter we follow.)
The church has also been concerned with honoring the dignity of the workers. Around the same time as the inception of Labor Day, Pope Leo XIII published the document Rerum Novarum in 1891. The title is Latin for “On New Things” and the subtitle is about the conditions of labor. It encourages fair treatment of workers and also recognized that the poor have a special status in consideration of social issues: the modern Catholic principle of the “preferential option for the poor” and the premise that God is on the side of the poor were expressed in this document.
Today we seem to find ourselves at extreme ends of the spectrum: unemployment rates are incredibly high and many who are working are so busy that there time for little else in life. What are we working for? Are we so busy that we don’t have time to appreciate the “grandeur we behold” or to listen for God’s voice and God’s call amidst our hectic lives?
One homilist from St. Vincent’s Parish in Washington points out that the readings this week invite us to listen for and hear God’s voice several times. The first reading from Deuteronomy proclaims: “Israel, hear the statues and decrees which I am teaching you to observe.” In the second reading from the letter of James, we are encouraged to “be doers of the word, and not just hearers only.” And in the Gospel, Jesus cries out, “Hear me, all of you, and understand.”
As I point out at orientation for new employees, if you rearrange the letters in the word “listen”, you can make the word “silent.” If we are going to listen to our patients, our residents, our families, and especially God, we have to make time to be silent, to hear, to reflect and to respond. That requires time set aside for this process and balance in our lives. John O’Donohue, in To Bless the Space Between Us, offers these words:
May [your] work fit the rhythms of your soul,
Enabling you to draw from the invisible
New ideas and a vision that will inspire.
Remember to be kind
To those who work for you,
Endeavor to remain aware
Of the quiet world
That lives behind each face.
Be fair in your expectations,
Compassionate in your criticism.
May you have the grace of encouragement
To awaken the gift in the other’s heart,
Building in them the confidence
To follow the call of the gift…
May your work assume
A proper space in your life;
Instead of owning or using you,
May it challenge and refine you,
Bringing you every day further
Into the wonder of your heart.
With gratitude for the labors of love offered each day throughout St. Mary’s Health System…
Tags: 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, catholic church, first reading, james 1, labor day, pastoral care, peter maguire, pope leo, second reading, St. Mary's Health System, st. mary's regional medical center, Sunday Scribes, sunday's gospel, word of the lord